Sandalwood
This unique Kannada film runs as one continuous, real-time experience two hours long.

Heegondhu Dina is a film that everyone should watch simply for the audacity of the experiment. In a scenario where so little thought goes into writing a film outside of its formulaic fights, songs and comedy scenes, this exciting Kannada film heads in the opposite direction.

Refusing to let convenient cuts and shifts simplify the plot, Heegondhu Dina runs as one continuous, real-time experience two hours long. That means there are no songs in foreign locations, no convenient flashbacks, no exciting fight scenes shot with 24 cameras to give the audience a convenient reprieve. Instead, all that Heegondhu Dina has to fall back on is a simple story, peopled by interesting but straightforward characters seen from one single perspective.

So you have Sindhu Loknath playing an aspiring actor, eager to get an early morning audition for a film. It feels like her last chance because there’s also a groom coming to see her that very morning, and she’s sure that her acting dreams will come to a grinding halt once she’s married. But what should be a simple journey to the audition and back turns into a winding series of frustrations and mishaps, as the universe refuses to cooperate with her dearly-held dreams.

It isn’t just the uniqueness of a real-time story with no cuts that makes Heegondhu Dina an interesting viewing experience. Rather, writer Vikas V and director Vikram Yoganand bring to the screen a genuinely engaging story that does not feel forced at any time except in the climax.

Along the way, the many people that Sindhu’s character runs into are neither heroes nor villains, but a varied set of everyday characters that are sure to strike a familiar chord with the audience. Like the cop who’s willing to take a bribe, but is affronted if people make light of it. Or the taxi driver who’s unwilling to accept that he’s missed his booking, and claims to be just around the corner when he hasn’t even left home.

And while all of them might have a friendly word or two for our frustrated protagonist, none of them comes off sounding as preachy and sanctimonious as most Sandalwood films show such characters to be. A wide collection of actors, including Praveen Tej, Guru Prasad, Padmaja Rao, Girija Lokesh and others, play these characters like real people, minus any sense of big screen melodrama. They manage to deliver more than a handful of wry moments that have you chuckling at regular intervals through the film.

Sindhu too handles herself well at the centre of this human drama, never boring the viewer despite being in almost every frame of the film. Perhaps the only thing missing from her otherwise entirely relatable performance is a stronger hint of the intensity and urgency that the possibility of missing a last chance to fulfil her dreams might throw up.

The audio landscape crafted by Abhilash Gupta that accompanies this creative tale is much like the rest of the film – earnest, uncomplicated and full of heart.

Heegondhu Dina is by no means a perfect film. The attempt to close the film on a happy note, in particular, dilutes whatever intensity the film builds up. And there are a few scenes in between, where the real-time narrative shows signs of dragging. But these are only minor quibbles. After all, when a film breaks from the by-the-numbers formulae of mainstream Kannada films so ambitiously, it does come as a breath of fresh air.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.